“And that’s it?”
“That’s it.” Connor answered. “Section 14 was the only contaminated area. It hadn’t spread anywhere past the airlocks however. The main section is secure, just the corridor leading to the outside.”
“And you say the door was battered in?"
“Looked like it. My guess is that people were desperate to find shelter. They didn’t make it in however. The door was still on it’s hinges, just bent out of shape.”
Kelly breathed a sigh of relief and relaxed back on her chair. “Well at least that’s something. We’ll need to fix it of course, before it can be habitable.”
“We cordoned it off so as to warn any new settlers when the population gets that far. Mind you, we’ll all probably be dead by then. It’s at least 70 miles north of here, the population will needed to have quadrupled at least by the time that space is needed.”
“Still. It’s safer to fix it as soon as possible. That way it minimises the risk of further contamination. We don’t want the toxins to spread.”
“And how exactly are you planning on doing that?” Connor asked. “The only way to stop any new toxins from getting in is to fix the door. There wasn’t a Stylo 1 base anywhere near the leak, we looked.”
“Daniela’s been working on that recently. We knew that the Walkers were only ever going to be a short term fix to the problem. We need to be able to explore further than the Stylo 1 signal lets the Walkers roam.”
“I thought Daniela was busy finding a cure.”
“She is. But apparently, whilst she was waiting for people to die, she had a bit of spare time on her hands. She been developing a project in her spare time. It was something that she had started prior to the impact.”
“It’s like a Hazmat suit but out of the Danel substance. It moulds to the individuals body and completely protects them from the outside air. She tested it out on a couple of dozen of the volunteers prior to contaminating them. The last ten managed to stay completely infection free for the entire time they wore it. The longest time was three months I believe.”
“I never saw her working on that.”
“Well, that’s because you kept a healthy distance from her whilst she was in that room. Something that some of your fellow men seem incapable of doing.”
Kelly replaced the blood soaked flannel with a new one, wincing as she placed it back on her lip.
“You really should get that looked at.” Connor said. “I could call for Gary.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. The man barely touched me.”
“Kelly, you need stitches…”
“Drop it, Connor.”
Connor held his hands out defensively and stifled a yawn.
“If you don’t need anything else, then I’m going to go and find Christie. I’m pretty sure she’s livid enough at me as it is. If she finds out that everyone else is back and I haven’t been to see her yet, I might as well kiss any chance of salvaging our relationship goodbye.”
“Fine, go.” Kelly said. “It will be good for you to get in her good graces anyway.”
“Tell me about it.” Connor went to leave but stopped, a question irking him. “Why?” He asked.
“I know why I want to be in her good graces, but why would you think it was a good idea?”
Kelly rolled her eyes. “She’s been moping around for months over you leaving, shooting daggers at me every time she sees me. It would appear that I’m to blame for you leaving, as much as everything else that has happened. I could do without her cursing me under her breath every time she walks by.”
“Why would you care about that?” Connor asked. “You never care what others think.”
“I care what she thinks.” Kelly answered. “You know that.”
Kelly shifted uncomfortably for a moment, a flash of humanity and loss shooting over her face.
“I’ll talk to her.” Connor said. “See if she will hear you out.”
“Don’t.” Kelly said, her adamant and cool expression back. “Anyway, it will do no good.”
“You don’t know that.”
“I do.” Kelly said. “Because if by some miracle, Chris manages to forgive me for what I’ve done so far, there’s no way she’ll ever forgive me for what I’m about to do.”
Connor felt his stomach drop.
“Do I even want to know?”
“You have to know.” Kelly said, a clip business tone edging her voice. “You’re a very large part of it.”
Connor sighed, a huge new wave of tiredness sweeping over him.
“I’m sending you out on another scouting trip.”
Connor’s stomach dropped even further.
“Are you insane?” He said. “She’ll never agree to that! Besides, we’ve been everywhere. We didn’t leave anywhere unsearched.”
“There’s somewhere else I need you to go.”
“If you’re talking about Section 14, it really is safe, the place is completely secure. I’ll lead the party there if you’re insistent on fixing it but it really isn’t that important, we can even wait a couple of years to…”
“I want you to lead a party outside.”
Silence. Connor literally had no words. He was stunned. Was she insane? He couldn’t go out there! The magnitude of what she was asking seemed to ludicrous to even consider.
“Now that we have the suits in working order,” Kelly said. “It seems like a perfect time to…”
“Have you lost it?”
“I assure you, I am perfectly serious.”
“Oh, I believe you’re serious. I just don’t think you’re sane.”
“No!” Connor yelled. “There’s no way I’m going out there in that!”
“We need to be able to…”
“What is wrong with you?” Connor spat. “Are you trying to get me killed?”
“Of course not…”
“Kelly, this is ridiculous.”
“Mayhew, shut up!”
Connor smacked his mouth shut and just stared in stunned silence at his sister. They stood staring at each other for a while, neither one speaking. Eventually Kelly broke the silence.
“We have a small window of time to try and salvage what little of outside is left. Each day we wait, the more our world dissolves around us. It’s important that we collect as much as we can of the surviving elements outside.
“Our screens have been picking up living organisms out there, plants mainly, perhaps even a few insects, we’re not sure. We need to get out there to explore further. By finding and collecting the surviving life out there, we can begin to work on what it is that is keeping them alive. With that, we can work on possibly even finding a cure. We can find a way to be able to live out there once the heat is down to a bearable level.”
“I thought that was what the human lab rats were for.”
“Daniela’s down to her last few. The closest she has got is a sedative to ease the pain. Nothing to stop the infection spreading and leading to death.”
“So their deaths were a waste?”
“Don’t start Connor. Their deaths have shown us a great deal. And besides, we never intended the experiments to be performed solely by one person. I had picked at least ten other survivors designed to help her, we had to adapt.”
“And your way of adapting is to send us out there wearing nothing but a thin piece of material to keep us safe?”
“The Danel is a lot more than a thin piece of material, you of all people should know that.”
“Please tell me that this is a mission you’re planning to take place in a couple of years.”
Kelly didn’t answer but looked at him levelly, her eyes doing all the talking for her. Connor let out a groan of frustration.
“Gary’s already started the preparations. He’ll be going with you. I envisage the team will be ready in a month or so.”
“A month?! No one will agree to that!”
“I’ve already assembled a team of ten people, some volunteers, some from your squad. I’m looking at 15 individuals in all.”
“How did you get them to agree?”
“Some wanted to, no doubt due to the fact that they’ve lost that same drive to stay alive anymore. Some needed convincing but I managed to when I told them that I would be joining you on the mission.”
“You were right in one respect. No one would believe that the suits were safe unless I vouched for them personally. The most effective way I could figure doing that was to vouch with my life.”
Connor sighed. “Please tell me I have a choice in this.”
“If I did, it would be harder to convince Chris to forgive you after you say yes.”
“What makes you think I would…”
“I know you. I know what you’re like. It’s why you were picked. Not by me, but by those who knew that you wouldn’t stop serving your country even when it didn’t exist anymore.” Kelly sighed and gave Connor a small, sad smile. “I’m ordering you to go because I know that you are the best person to lead this group with me. I also know that you know that too. You have four weeks to convince Chris not to hate you. I’ll be the punching bag, it’s not like it’ll be any different than before.”